Like I usually do when new gadgets hit the tool kit, I have been using only the iPhone 4S for the past few days. I still have my Nexus S 4G Android phone running the current version of Gingerbread, but it remained on the charger while I carried the new iPhone everywhere. Last night I decided it was time to pick up the Nexus and get reacquainted with the phone that has served me well. It didn't take me long to realize that after using the smooth, polished iPhone 4S that Android just feels wrong.
This realization hit me hard, as I found that as I used the Nexus, a phone I absolutely love, the user experience was jangling my nerves. The inconsistencies in the interface between apps and the occasional lag doing simple things like scrolling in windows just screamed at me. I hadn't really noticed it before, but after using the iPhone these things jump out at me.
Don't get me wrong, the Android Gingerbread interface isn't bad, it's just not always smooth. In just a few days with the iPhone 4S and iOS 5 I had come to expect operation to be fluid and consistent system-wide. That's just not the case with Android, and every little interruption in smooth operation now accumulates into a feeling of frustration as I use the phone.
The biggest area of discontent is in web browsing, one of the primary things I do with a smartphone. I have long found stock Android browsers to be lacking, not in a major way but in fluid operation. That never bothered me as the strength of Android is the number of apps available, and third party browsers stepped in and served my needs just fine. Or so I thought.
After the totally flawless operation of Mobile Safari on the iPhone 4S, I realize that the browsing experience in Android just falls short. Sometimes pages stutter while loading, other times a page doesn't load at all. Hitting the X to stop a stalled page and then refreshing the page to get the browser to load the page was something I had gotten used to doing to make it work. Now that seems like a jarring interruption to what I now know can be a fluid experience. And don't get me started on pinching to zoom in or out on web pages and how terrible that is on Android compared to iOS.
The lack of fluid operation in Android may be due to the OS, or perhaps it is hardware related. It might be due to better apps on the iPhone, or tighter control by Apple over them. I really don't care as a user, I want the best user experience I can get. The good one delivered by the iPhone 4S makes it clear to me how wanting the Android experience actually is. It just feels wrong.